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GM cuts jobs in response to present costs, future innovation

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GM cuts jobs in response to present costs future innovation

DETROIT (AP) — Even though unemployment is low, the economy is growing and U.S. auto sales are near historic highs, General Motors is cutting thousands of jobs in a major restructuring aimed at generating cash to spend on innovation.

It’s the new reality for automakers that are faced with the present cost of designing gas-powered cars and trucks that appeal to buyers now while at the same time preparing for a future world of electric and autonomous vehicles.

GM announced Monday that it will cut as many as 14,000 workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it abandons many of its car models and restructures to focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

CEO Mary Barra said as cars and trucks become more complex, GM will need more computer coders but fewer engineers who work on internal combustion engines.

“The vehicle has become much more software-oriented” with millions of lines of code, she said. “We still need many technical resources in the company.”

The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM’s global workforce of 180,000 employees.

The restructuring also reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.

GM is shedding cars largely because it doesn’t make money on them, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a note to investors.

“We estimate sedans operate at a significant loss, hence the need for classic restructuring,” he wrote.

The reduction includes about 8,000 white-collar employees, or 15 percent of GM’s North American white-collar workforce. Some will take buyouts while others will be laid off.

At the factories, around 3,300 blue-collar workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and another 2,600 in Canada, but some U.S. workers could transfer to truck or SUV factories that are increasing production. The cuts mark GM’s first major downsizing since shedding thousands of jobs in the Great Recession.

The company also said it will stop operating two additional factories outside North America by the end of next year.

The move to make GM get leaner before the next downturn likely will be followed by Ford Motor Co., which also has struggled to keep one foot in the present and another in an ambiguous future of new mobility. Ford has been slower to react, but says it will lay off an unspecified number of white-collar workers as it exits much of the car market in favor of trucks and SUVs, some of them powered by batteries.

The GM layoffs come amid the backdrop of a trade wars between the U.S., China and Europe that likely will lead to higher prices for imported vehicles and those exported from the U.S. Barra said the company faces challenges from tariffs but she did not directly link the layoffs to them.

GM doesn’t foresee an economic downturn and is making the cuts “to get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong,” Barra told reporters.

Factories that could be closed include assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and Lordstown, Ohio, as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

The announcement worried GM workers who could lose their jobs.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family,” Matt Smith, a worker at the Ontario factory, said Monday outside the plant’s south gate, where workers blocked trucks from entering or leaving. “It’s hard. It’s horrible.” Smith’s wife also works at the plant. The couple has an 11-month-old at home.

Workers at the Ontario plant walked off the job Monday but were expected to return Tuesday.

After the morning announcement, Barra headed for Washington to speak with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow in what was described as a previously scheduled meeting.

President Donald Trump, who has made bringing back auto jobs a big part of his appeal to Ohio and other Great Lakes states that are crucial to his re-election, said his administration and lawmakers are exerting “a lot of pressure” on GM.

Trump said he was being tough on Barra, telling the company that the U.S. has done a lot for GM and that if its cars aren’t selling, the company needs to produce ones that will.

At a rally near GM’s Lordstown, Ohio, plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “all coming back.”

Most of the factories to be affected by GM’s restructuring build cars that will not be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. Their futures will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

The Detroit-based union has already condemned GM’s actions and threatened to fight them “through every legal, contractual and collective bargaining avenue open to our membership.”

Bobbi Marsh, who has worked assembling the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the Ohio plant since 2008, said she can’t understand why the factory might close given the strong economy.

“I can’t believe our president would allow this to happen,” she said Monday. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said the move will be disastrous for the region around Youngstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland, where GM is one of the area’s few remaining industrial anchors.

“GM received record tax breaks as a result of the GOP’s tax bill last year, and has eliminated jobs instead of using that tax windfall to invest in American workers,” he said in a statement.

GM, the nation’s largest automaker, will stop producing cars and transmissions at the plants through 2019. In all, six car models were scrapped, leaving the company with nine remaining car models for its four brands, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.

Among the cars that won’t be made after next year is the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable gas-electric hybrid. When introduced a decade ago, the Volt was meant to be a bridge to fully electric cars, the company said. It has a small battery that can take it about 50 miles, then it switches to a small gasoline engine.

But since it was introduced, battery technology has improved dramatically, GM said. Now the full-electric Chevrolet Bolt can go up to 238 miles on a single charge.

The United Auto Workers promised to fight any plant closures and criticized GM for cutting U.S. jobs while building full-size pickups in Mexico. It also recently announced that a new Chevrolet Blazer SUV will be built there. Also, GM imports the Buick Envision midsize SUV from China.

___

Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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Economy

Fed survey cites rising concerns about trade tariffs

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Fed survey cites rising concerns about trade tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy was growing in the fall, but there were concerns about higher tariffs from a widening trade war, rising interest rates and tight labor markets.

In its latest report on economic conditions around the country, the Fed said that most of its 12 regions saw moderate growth through late November. Dallas and Philadelphia said growth had slowed, while St. Louis and Kansas City depicted growth as slight.

The report, known as the beige book, found that optimism about the future had waned somewhat, with business contacts citing “increased uncertainty.”

The survey will used at the Fed’s next meeting on Dec. 18-19. The central bank is widely expected to boost its benchmark rate for a fourth time this year at that meeting.

The beige book report noted problems the higher tariffs from Trump’s get-tough approach to trade were causing: rising costs for manufacturers, weaker sales at companies and farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other nations.

Even with the tariff concerns, the beige book said most districts continued to report moderate growth in manufacturing.

The impact of rising interest rates affected interest-rate sensitive sectors such as housing, with the beige book noting that new home construction and sales of existing homes were either holding steady or experiencing slight declines.

The Fed survey said that labor markets had tightened further across a broad range of occupations.

“Over half of the districts cited firms for which employment, production and sometimes capacity expansion had been constrained by an inability to attract and retain qualified workers,” the report said.

Unemployment fell in October to a 49-year low of 3.7 percent with economists forecasting further declines in the coming months. A key reason the Fed has been raising interest rates is to slow the economy to ensure that tight labor markets don’t unleash unwanted inflation pressures.

With labor markets already so tight, the Fed said that many districts were seeing examples of firms enhancing their nonwage benefits, including health benefits, profit-sharing, bonuses and paid vacation days.

Despite the wage pressures, the report said that prices continued to increase at a modest pace in most districts although reports of tariff-inducted cost increases have spread more broadly in such areas as manufacturing, retailing and restaurants.

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Economy

White House intensifies confusion and fear on US-China deal

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White House intensifies confusion and fear on US-China deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration raised doubts Tuesday about the substance of a U.S.-China trade cease-fire, contributing to a broad stock market plunge and intensifying fears of a global economic slowdown.

Investors had initially welcomed the truce that the administration said was reached over the weekend in Argentina between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping — and sent stocks up Monday. But on Tuesday, after a series of confusing and conflicting words from Trump and some senior officials, stocks tumbled, with the Dow Jones shedding about 800 points, or 3.1 percent.

White House aides have struggled to explain the details of what the two countries actually agreed on. And China has not confirmed that it made most of the concessions that the Trump administration has claimed.

“The sense is that there’s less and less agreement between the two sides about what actually took place,” said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird. “There was a rally in the expectation that something had happened. The problem is that something turned out to be nothing.”

Other concerns contributed to the stock sell-off, including falling long-term bond yields. Those lower rates suggested that investors expect the U.S. economy to slow, along with global growth, and possibly fall into recession in the coming year or two.

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, also unnerved investors by telling reporters Tuesday that he supports further Fed rate hikes. His remarks renewed fears that the Fed may miscalculate and raise rates so high or so fast as to depress growth.

The disarray surrounding the China deal coincides with a global economy that faces other challenges: Britain is struggling to negotiate its exit from the European Union. Italy’s government is seeking to spend and borrow more, which could elevate interest rates and stifle growth.

And in the United States, home sales have fallen sharply in the past year as mortgage rates have jumped.

Trump and White House aides have promoted the apparent U.S.-China agreement in Buenos Aires as a historic breakthrough that would ease trade tensions and potentially reduce tariffs. They announced that China had agreed to buy many more American products and to negotiate over the administration’s assertions that Beijing steals American technology. But by Tuesday morning, Trump was renewing his tariff threats in a series of tweets.

“President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will,” Trump tweeted. “But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so.”

Trump added that a 90-day timetable for negotiators to reach a deeper agreement had begun and that his aides would see “whether or not a REAL deal with China is actually possible.”

He revisited the issue later Tuesday with a tweet that said: “We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all – at which point we will be charging major Tariffs against Chinese product being shipped into the United States. Ultimately, I believe, we will be making a deal – either now or into the future. China does not want Tariffs!”

The president’s words had the effect of making the weekend agreement, already a vague and uncertain one, seem even less likely to produce a long-lasting trade accord.

“We expect the relationship between the world’s two largest economies to remain contentious,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report. “Narrow agreements and modest concessions in their ongoing trade dispute will not bridge the wide gulf in their respective economic, political and strategic interests.”

Among the conflicting assertions that White House officials made was over whether China had actually agreed to drop its 40 percent tariffs on U.S. autos.

In addition, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday on the Fox Business Network that China agreed to buy $1.2 trillion of U.S. products. But Mnuchin added, “If that’s real” — thereby raising some doubt — it would close the U.S. trade deficit with China, and “We have to have a negotiated agreement and have this on paper.”

Many economists have expressed skepticism that very much could be achieved to bridge the vast disagreements between the two countries in just 90 days.

“The actual amount of concrete progress made at this meeting appears to have been quite limited,” Alec Phillips and other economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note.

During the talks in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed to delay a scheduled escalation in U.S. tariffs on many Chinese goods, from 10 percent to 25 percent, that had been set to take effect Jan. 1. Instead, the two sides are to negotiate over U.S. complaints about China’s trade practices, notably that it has used predatory tactics to try to achieve supremacy in technology. These practices, according to the administration and outside analysts, include stealing intellectual property and forcing companies to turn over technology to gain access to China’s market.

In return for the postponement in the higher U.S. tariffs, the White House said China had agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. farm, energy and industrial goods. Most economists noted that the two countries remain far apart on the sharpest areas of disagreement, which include Beijing’s subsidies for strategic Chinese industries, in addition to forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

Chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow acknowledged those challenges in remarks Tuesday morning.

“China’s discussed these things with the U.S. many times down through the years and the results have not been very good,” he said. “So this time around, as I said, I’m hopeful, we’re covering more ground than ever … So we’ll see.”

Complicating the challenge, Trump’s complaints strike at the heart of the Communist Party’s state-led economic model and its plans to elevate China to political and cultural leadership by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.

“It’s impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans,” said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Trump had tweeted Sunday that China agreed to “reduce and remove” its 40 percent tariff on cars imported from the U.S. Mnuchin said Monday that there was a “specific agreement” on the auto tariffs.

Yet Kudlow said later that there was no “specific agreement” regarding auto trade, though he added, “We expect those tariffs to go to zero.”

___

Associated Press writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Economy

Medicare-for-All would cost more than every penny we’ve spent on defense in the country’s history

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Medicare-for-All would cost more than every penny weve spent on defense in the countrys history

Math is hard for many Americans. It isn’t just the sad state of our public school system that keeps the people down. It’s politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who push lies and pipe dreams that keep many Americans thinking the government has unlimited money and there’s no real difference between millions, billions, and trillions.

There’s a big difference, of course, but leftists will never let the number of zeroes get in the way of promoting their ideological goals. As I posted earlier, even left-leaning news outlets like the Washington Post are calling out Ocasio-Cortez for her false statements about Medicare-for-All.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earns 4 Pinocchios over bungled defense budget interpretation

http://noqreport.com/2018/12/04/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-earns-4-pinocchios-bungled-defense-budget-interpretation/Ocasio-Cortez must have realized when she Tweeted the article that there’s no way “66% of Medicare for All could have been funded already by the Pentagon.” She was certainly playing down to her base in hopes they’d ignore reality and embrace her false notions just because she said it. The Tweet was either a bald-faced lie or she’s an absolute moron. Or both.

Washington Post, which normally supports socialist initiatives recommended by their Democratic puppetmasters, had to call this particular claim out. They gave the claim “4 Pinocchios,” a designation they save for some of the most egregious lies in politics.

It isn’t just about being completely wrong on the Pentagon’s accounting errors. This goes deeper. While fact-checking her claims, PolitiFact decided to do some math of their own. They gathered defense spending data as far back as they could – 1940 – and tallied the totals. Those who understand the difference between millions, billions, and trillions probably won’t be surprised to learn the total spent in that time is under $18 trillion, well short of the $21 trillion Ocasio-Cortez claimed she could have used to pay 2/3 of Medicare-for-All.

The also stipulated that since defense spending was much lower in the past, it’s very likely the total spent since the nation’s inception still couldn’t hit Ocasio-Cortez’ number.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrong on scale of Pentagon accounting errors

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/dec/03/alexandria-ocasio-cortez/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-wrong-scale-pentagon-acco/One tip-off is the amount of Ocasio-Cortez’s “accounting errors” is far bigger than the actual Pentagon spending from 1998 to 2015, which was $8.5 trillion. In fact, it’s also far bigger than the amount the government has spent on national security since 1940 and, in all likelihood, in the nation’s history.

Here’s a chart we assembled showing national-security spending by the federal government from 1940 to today. Ocasio-Cortez’s $21 trillion estimate exceeds the entirety of national-security spending since 1940, which checks in around $17.8 trillion. And while full data back to 1776 doesn’t exist, prorating backwards for another 164 years would almost certainly not add enough to make the total $21 trillion.

Medicare-for-All is projected to cost $32 trillion over its first 10 years alone.

Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and all their mathematically challenged supporters need to hear this information now. If you could somehow take back every dollar spent on defense from the time the nation was formed until today, it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for Medicare-for-All. This isn’t a right-wing conspiracy. This is left-leaning Politifact crunching the numbers.

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